Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On the Mystery of the Mead

Mead holds a special significance in the ancient North. Its mention is absolutely ubiquitous in the Eddas, whether it be the Mead of Inspiration itself or the simple welcome of the warrior to the hall. Of great mystery to myself at least, I can think of almost no mythic mention of the origin of the mead, that is to say- the bees making the honey.  While the other great pagan religions have in fact, deified the bee in many cases, from Greco-Roman mythology to the Kalevala, Norse material notably omits mention.  One would think that with mead being of such great social and religious importance, the bee and the beekeeper would figure prominently.  They do not.

While pondering this question I came across a charming article in a reprint of an 1899 Saga book of the Viking Society from the Harvard Library entitled "On a Passage of 'Sonar Torek' in the Egil's Saga."  If you don't know Egil's Saga, it is a great read, and Egil is the penultimate Odin's man; warrior, poet, brewer and smith.  He makes a curious allusion in the epic poem composed on the death of his son, Bodvar, using the word Byskip, or "bee-ship (skep)" to describe Bodvar's destined dwelling in death.

On a Passage of "Sonar Torek" in the Egil's Saga

It is a nice image to consider.